This is a guest post by Jessica Johnson
Have you ever wasted an hour searching for an email or a Word document you know you saved on your computer – but it just won’t turn up? Or maybe you’ve gone to print out a file, only to discover that you’re out of ink and you can’t find that extra cartridge you’re sure you bought just last month.
Knowing where things are when you need them is one of the most important keys to working efficiently. (Swearing that you ‘know’ where everything is, while staring through two-foot stacks of paperwork on your desk doesn’t count.) Organization is everything if you want to be really productive. To streamline your workday, it’s important to remove the clutter — from your physical work space, from your computer, and from your mind.
Fortunately, it will take just an hour or two of legwork to make a fresh start. Do it now! You’ll save endless hours in the long run.
Declutter Your Desktop
Is your computer’s desktop a jumbled mess of dozens of icons? If your default place to save files is onto your desktop, yet you never sort these into folders, make a commitment to change this immediately. As a bonus, that amazing vacation or family photo you lovingly chose for your screen image will finally be visible.
Start by creating four or five top-level folders. These will be the only icons on your desktop. Here are the ones I use:
• Work – Within this folder, there are folders named for current clients and projects.
• Pictures – I sort within this folder by year, month and subject.
• Music/Movies – I regularly move files from this folder to an external hard drive to save space.
• Dropbox – This cloud-syncing tool is invaluable to me, and it’s where I keep any projects I’m actively working on, before moving them to the ‘Work’ folder to file away. Get a free account here: www.dropbox.com.
Now, it’s just a question of dragging the files on your desktop into the folder they correspond to. And if you don’t have time right now to sort them, create one folder called ‘Old Desktop,’ drag everything into it, and sort it out later. You’d be amazed what having a clean desktop can do for your productivity and attitude on the job.
Organize Your Email
Take a similar approach with email. Create folders where you can store emails and reference them without storing them perpetually in your inbox. The goal should be to end each day with a clean inbox (or close to it.) And it’s okay to cheat with a folder called “Needs Immediate Attention!” if you just want to clear out your inbox and deal with a few emails the next day.
Clean Up Your Workspace
It’s amazing what a difference a few pieces of hardware can do for cleaning up a cluttered desk. Start with these key components:
- A charging station – The primary culprit of today’s cluttered desks, even for the hyper organized, are cords and wires. Purchase a surge-protecting power strip big enough to handle all of your hard drives and plugs, and then tuck these wires out of the way with clips or a well-placed nail.
- Shelving or drawers – If you don’t have a place to put something, it will end up on your desk or on the floor. Build or purchase enough drawer and shelf space so that everything has a place. Then, put speakers and hard drives in places where the cords can be out of the way.
- A Cleaning caddy – Dust that’s allowed to build up can make a work station nasty, whether it’s grime between the keys on your computer, a thin layer across your computer screen, or full-fledged dust bunnies under your desk. Get a small bucket or caddy that can hold a few lint-free cloths or rags, a brush, some window and surface cleaner, cotton swabs, and a can of compressed air. Keep it on hand; if you don’t have to go searching for the things you need to clean, you’re far more likely to clean on a regular basis and stay one step ahead of the grime.
Calm Your Mind
Do you have a way to unwind during the work day? The stress of constantly shifting between projects, taking phone calls, answering emails, and trying to actually accomplish something can take a toll on anyone.
If you work from home or have your own office, get a comfy chair or collection of pillows where you can sit back for a few minutes and read something unrelated to work, or simply close your eyes and focus on your breathing. This is more difficult for employees in a large or communal office environment, but a good pair of comfy noise-blocking headphones can allow for five to ten minutes of relaxation time before tackling your next project.
What other steps have you taken to streamline your workday? Do any of these ideas stand out to you?
Jessica Johnson works for http://www.extraspace.com and contributes to the Extra Space Storage blog, exploring various aspects of organizing and storing possessions.